Meah McCallister | Culture Staff Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
The horror genre has long drawn people in for adrenaline rushes and deep dives into the human psyche. Viewers flock to scary movies for the purging expression of emotion, but it’s no secret that the genre has dipped in quality the past few decades.
The highest regarded horror movies have always forced the audience to come face-to-face with the aspects of human life that terrify them. Historically, the genre has played on public fears. The best films offer commentary on human insights many audiences often try to ignore. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” transcended other films during its era. The film subverted expectations making the viewer aware of how one fears the idea of uncertainty. William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” played into the fear of the unknown and supernatural in everyday life. Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” latched on to the power and allusion of fear. Great directors show the audience not only what the characters fear, but what they fear themselves.
Though the horror genre continues to draw in audiences, the quality and commentary have slipped in recent years. The movies have become obsessed with cheap jump scares, cliché storylines and over-the-top gore. Whatever nuanced observations and revelations earlier horror movies made now seem to be fading from the big screen. The few exceptions still don’t seem to resonate with the spirit of the past, with some directors even making fun of the recent lack of creativity. Films such as Wes Craven’s “Scream” and Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods” highlighted the genre’s shortcomings.
However, horror fans noticed a change that’s been building. In 2014, Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook” threw a curveball at audiences and critics alike. It brought something to the
table that audiences felt had been missing from scary movies for some time: honesty. It’s a remarkably human movie, showcasing the struggles of a single mother and how difficult it can be to cope with the resentment that encompasses those situations. In 2015, Robert Egger’s “The Witch” did much of the same. In the film, he placed a spotlight on a family with a multitude of real-life fears, which included failure, the loss of loved ones, the unknown and struggles with one’s faith. The movie, much like “The Babadook,” was open with audiences by displaying a realness that was refreshing.
Soon, other directors followed suit and began carving out better stories. Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” remains one of the best demonstrations that horror can be entertaining, while still making a social or political stance. The movie shows the hard truth of race relations and plays on the unfortunate fear of racism in the world. John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” focuses on the fear of losing loved ones, coupled with the fear of silence and anticipation. More recently, Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” highlights true grief and real human reactions in the face of terror and loss of control. In 2019, viewers have already seen new approaches to the form. In Gilroy’s “Velvet Buzzsaw,” audiences come face-to-face with greed and obsession and how they result in characters’ downfalls.
This growing change in the genre gives way to hope for the future. With upcoming movies such as Peele’s “Us” and Abe Forsythe’s “Little Monsters,” both highly anticipated films among critics, the genre is regaining its once fallen reputation. There is a growing demand for audiences to be scared but in the right way. People want the old commentary and analysis of the past with all of the reinvention of the future. The time, and the market, is now.